Flashy Profile Flies

                          Kate & Bill Howe

      With  very  few exceptions, all fish eat other fish.  Those
that eat and those that are eaten have been doing this thing  for
thousands of years, and with practice comes perfection.
The greatest factor that brings on a feeding response from a game
fish  is prey recognition. During a specie's evolution, which  is
always ongoing, there are constant changes occurring. The fastest
out  live  the slowest, the strongest outlive the weak. The  fish
with the most ability to survive is usually the one to go on  and
add  his  traits to the gene pool. And one of the most  important
survival  skills  that  a game fish possess  is  the  ability  to
recognize  prey, to differentiate between the delicious  and  the
dangerous. And the most important survival techniques  that  food
fishes  have  are  those  of  group  protection  and  camouflage.
Baitfish  that depend on camouflage alone for survival  are  more
often  solitary in nature living in or near structure that  helps
to  hide  them.  The young of many fishes also  depend  on  their
almost colorless bodies to provide them with a kind of camouflage
until  they  are  large enough to leave the  sanctuary  of  their
shallow nursery waters.
     But the schooling baitfish is a different story. They depend
on  group  protection, sheer numbers protect the mass from  total
annihilation. They have no true camouflage as a group except that
the  flashiness of their bodies and their movement en mass  seems
to  have  no  beginning and no end which may  help  to  add  some
confusion in the feeding malay and allow a greater survival  rate
for the group. As a mass or ball of bait fish moves they give off
signals  both audible and visual to feeding fish that might  just
as  well  say EAT HERE!  And one of the most recognizable signals
inherent in all schooling bait fishes is their flash.
      It  is an axiom that form, silhouette and color play a very
important role in fly construction. But these elements  are  more
important once the offering comes under close scrutiny, the  most
prominent  feature a baitfish has that may stimulate  an  initial
investigative  response from a predator is it's visual  presence,
and this presence is detected by the flash.
      Let's  put this in it's proper perspective. The fish  is  a
very  primitive animal. The impulses to their brains  from  their
senses  are  very basic. They do not reason. They only  react  to
stimuli  to fill very simple needs. We as anglers have a tendency
to  attribute  more intellect to them than they deserve,  and  we
often go to extremes to create flies that suggest realism to  the
ninth degree. Perhaps by accentuating certain recognizable traits
in  bait imitations, such as the flash, we may find it easier  to
get and hold a fishes attention.
           As  an  example, let's take a look at  fishes  of  the
Silversides  family. These include the California  Grunion,  Jack
Smelt,  Top  Smelt  (which are not true smelt)  as  well  as  the
Atlantic Silversides. There are both salt and fresh water species
of silversides that inhabit the temperate to tropical zones.
      The  marine species can be found in large schools  in  many
inshore waters. This makes them an important food for game  fish.
Flies  imitating these types of bait fish are extremely important
to anglers.
      The  Silversides in it's mature form is a small,  sometimes
almost transparent fish with back colors that range from Dk. gray-
black  to  a  pale seafoam green. Their sides and  belly  are  an
iridescent  silvery  color.  When seen  under  water  their  most
striking feature is the flash coming from their sides, sparked by
whatever available light is penetrating the water column.
     As tiers this should alert us to the fact that we are not as
concerned with actual motion or color contrast as with giving the
impression of these basic elements that attract attention. It  is
this   flash   that   brings  the  first   response,   which   is
investigation, if the bait is then recognized as a food form  and
nothing elicits a fear or caution response feeding takes place.
      How should we imitate the flashing sides of a baitfish. How
much  flash is enough where should it be placed in a pattern  and
what types are most effective?
      After  buying  every  flash material  on  the  market,  and
experimenting   with  them  all,  we  have  drawn   some   unique
conclusions.  For  imitating the flashing  sides  of  baitfishes,
regardless  of their color, the #1 choice is stranded pearlescent
flash  such as Flashabou. We use the fine for small flies  up  to
about 3/0 or 4/0 and the large saltwater type for bigger patterns
such  as  offshore and billfish flies. Pearlescent color  is  the
easiest  choice to make as it will mimic the colors of  materials
that  it  is mixed with. This material tied in large amounts  (at
least  1/2  of  total profile of your fly) in the center  of  the
pattern  simulates  the  iridescent  sides  of  most  baits.  For
simulating  the refracted colors that bounce off of baitfish  and
imply   motion,   holographic  mylars  have  no   rival.   Unlike
transparent  or single color flashes, holographic  materials  are
three  dimensional. This effect is achieved by  reflecting  laser
light  off  of  photo  film without the use  of  a  camera.  Some
holographic flashes are the result of this single process, others
have  an  additional image such as fish scale or prismatic.  This
three  dimensional effect adds real animation to a fly  as  these
materials  not only reflect but refract light and it  takes  very
little light and movement to activate them. Holographic materials
should  be  mixed throughout the entire pattern to take advantage
of  all  light  sources  and give your  fly  "life".  It  is  the
combination of these two materials that best simulate the dynamic
color changes that appear to be taking place in moving bait fish.
     The amount of flash you use is based on several factors, off
color  water  conditions usually call for  extra  flash  to  help
increase your flies visibility. Overcast skies can dull  a  flies
appearance,  and flash, especially holographic will help  you  to
use  all the available light to accentuate your pattern, but  the
most  important consideration is matching the flashiness  of  the
bait  you  are imitating. Tiers that take some time to study  the
bait  species  that they are imitating will have  a  much  better
success  rate with their flies than those who do not.  No  matter
how  much  flash you use it is better to have a little  too  much
than not enough. You can always cut a little bit of flash out  of
a  pattern  if your are getting refusals but you can't add  flash
after the fact.
       To  effectively  incorporate  flashy  materials  into  fly
patterns you must first understand their characteristics and have
a  good working knowledge of how they function under water. Mylar
tubing products, used for solid bodied flies such as Zonkers  and
hard  bodied  minnows are great for smaller patterns,  especially
when  the hook shank length is equivalent to fly length. But they
can be limiting due to their small diameters and the fact that in
larger  flies the hook shank area most often only represents  1/4
of  the total surface area of the bait fish fly. They also  offer
only one stationery surface for reflection and must have quite  a
bit  of  action  imparted to them in order to take  advantage  of
their reflective qualities. Mylar sheeting such as eye panels are
also  useful but again only add flash to a specific area. Due  to
their  rigid nature mylar sheeting products are terminal as  they
are  easily  ripped out and they may also cause problems  with  a
patterns  fishability as they have a tendency  to  plane  in  the
water  and  cause  the  fly to have an erratic  action.  Stranded
flashes such as Flashabou, Krystal Flash, Holo Flash and the like
are by far the best as they are simply the easiest to use.
      When  sitting  down at the vise to design your  own  Flashy
Profile  Flies you may use any number of different tying  methods
and  your choice of body materials. To overcome some of the  more
obvious problems that we have encountered with stranded flash  we
have  adapted and developed some techniques that have now  become
standard in all of our patterns that incorporate flash.
     Generally we start our patterns with a base material such as
crinkle nylon, tied in along the hook shank at it's center  point
and  folded  back  over itself to form the tail of  the  pattern.
Folding of synthetic materials such as flash and nylons increases
their  durability at the tie in point and will increase  a  flies
fishing  life.  This  "tail" forms a base for  the  flash  to  be
supported by, helps to keep the flash from fouling the hook  when
cast,  and is the beginning of your dorsal-ventral shilouette  or
profile. Whether you are using synthetic materials or natural for
your  body  construction you should still apply your  flash  with
this  folding technique as it will be more secure and less likely
to pull out. Once this supporting layer has been tied in the next
step is to begin building a "flashy profile".
     Using pearlescent stranded mylar, cut hanks twice the length
of the flies desired length and using the folding method tie them
in along the top side of the hook shank only, one right after the
other. This method is called the Hi-Ti and it has been around for
years.  It  is recognized as a standard for building  flies  with
deep  body  silhouettes. We use the Hi-Ti method  to  apply  both
flash and  body material. To avoid the clumping effect that flash
exhibits  when  wet  you  need to stagger the  ends  dramatically
before tying them in. This is easily accomplished by running  the
material up and down between your fingers after you have  cut  it
from  the hank. Try not be too concerned with loose ends and wild
hairs ! This is the effect that you are trying to create. A  kind
of  controlled  chaos of flash and color, after  all  nothing  in
nature  is  perfect.  Don't be stingy with  the  amount  you  use
either, for small patterns of 4/0 and under use at least 40 to 50
strands of fine flash for each application. For larger flies  use
the  wide saltwater variety of flash and make sure each bunch has
at  least  10 to 15 strands. Usually three applications of  flash
tied  in, in this manner are enough to create the desired effect.
Now  that  the flashy profile is complete you need only  add  the
materials to your fly that are needed to form the back.  This  is
also  the  area  that  you will apply your colored  materials  to
imitate  your  bait  species. In studying bait  fishes  you  will
notice that obvious coloration only occurs in this upper quadrant
of  the profile. Keep your colored area sparse and emphasize each
color with the addition of colored flashes that will accent them.
    As  far  as  body materials go we prefer synthetics  such  as
crinkle  nylon as this material allow us to construct a fly  that
has  a very deep profile but a thin body. This gives a pattern  a
visible  presence in the water without adding excess  weight  and
bulk. Since big fish have big teeth the synthetic materials  have
become  a  most intelligent choice as they are more  durable  and
will  withstand a great deal of abuse. As far as  their  use  for
imitating  bait fish they are unsurpassed. There are more  colors
available  than  in  any  other single  material  and  the  small
diameter of the nylon allows a tier to mix an unlimited number of
them to truly match the bait fish hatch.
       Flashy  Profile  Flies  tie  just  as  well  with  natural
materials,  i.e.;  bucktail, saddle  hackle,  peacock  herl  etc.
however  care  should  be  taken to limit  the  amount  of  these
materials  used  so  that  the fly's balance  and  form  are  not
compromised. As natural materials have a tendency to float  until
they  are completely saturated with water you must make sure that
your  fly  will swim properly. The addition of too  much  buoyant
material  in one place and not enough in another will  give  your
pattern  an  unnatural swimming motion when fished and  unnatural
swimming  will cause a caution response in feeding fish  just  as
quickly  as  a  poor imitation will. The concept  of  the  Flashy
Profile  Fly  came about from a need to simulate  motion  through
flash and not through bulk, therefore this style of fly allows  a
tier  to  create a fly of tremendous visual presence without  the
bulk  of too much material. Great care should be taken to produce
patterns,  regardless of materials, that not only look like  bait
fish  but  act like them. Remember, the most important aspect  of
the F.P.F are it's flashy sides.
     We tie F.P.F's from size #4 at 2 long (for small inshore and
costal baitfish imitations) up to 10/0 tandem rigs that measure a
full 16" to 18" inches long and 6" deep which are very popular in
Australia for big billfish.  Having fished this style of fly both
inshore  and offshore we find them to be consistently productive.
Their  unique  flashy nature allows them to be fished  with  less
imparted  action, such as stripping, and this keeps them  in  the
strike  zone much longer which after all is where a fly needs  to
be. We only suggest you tie some and try them for yourself.